Monthly Archives: July 2012

I’m Such a Silly Tanker

When I was a kid I used to build models, mostly planes. A few years back when I needed something to distract me I built a couple of small tank models. Recently, due to the bad influence of a friend, I bought my first 1/35 scale tank model. It’s a Sherman Firefly, which is a standard US Sherman modified by the British to fit their high velocity 17pdr cannon. These tanks saw service in the last couple of years of WW2 and were highly valued because they were pretty much the only allied tank that could engage German armour at range and expect to destroy them.

The one I built is a Dragon Models 1:35 Sherman Firefly 1C Hybrid. The nomenclature means that the tank looked liked a Sherman M4A1 (Sherman II) which had a cast hull from the front and an M4 (Sherman 1) which had a welded hull from the rear. The marrying up of the cast front hull and the welded rear hull gives rise to the “hybrid” term. The “C” means the tank was armed with the 17pdr which incidentally was a 76mm weapon. Anyway, enough geeky tank stuff. I promised my partner that if I bought this model that I’d actually finish it. And so I did. You can see it below. I decided to mark it up as a New Zealand tank even though I am not sure that any Firefly 1C’s actually served with that country’s forces in WW2. I could only find reference to Firefly VC’s (based on the Sherman M4A4) serving with New Zealand in Italy. Who cares though, I am not a scale modelling fanatic.

1:35 Sherman Firefly 1C Hybrid

1:35 Sherman Firefly 1C Hybrid

I had a good time building and painting this model, enough of a good time that I’m going to do another. There’s some paint chipping and weathering stuff I didn’t try on this tank because I didn’t want to ruin it. So I’ll ruin the next one trying those out. The next one is going to be a British M4A2 (Sherman III) with a two colour disruptive paint scheme and loaded down with some extra stowage to make it a bit more unique.

Excel : Changing Cell Dropdown Source via VBA

I’ve just had to work out how to change the cell drop down source of an Excel cell based on the value of another cell. In this case I had one drop down with the Australian states in it and I wanted this to drive a second dropdown that allows users to select the Federal Electorate. It turned out to be pretty easy (and quite nifty). My spreadsheet is setup with a series of named ranges containing the state electorates. So, for example, there’s a named range called ElectoratesNSW containing all the electorates for NSW. Just add the following to the sheet where you want the data validation magic to happen.

Private Sub Worksheet_Change(ByVal Target As Range)
  Dim sState As String
  Dim rngTmp As Range
  '
  ' Cell in row 7 and column 3 is the State dropdown
  '
  If Target.Row = 7 And Target.Column = 3 Then
    '
    'Cell in row 7, column 4 is the electorate dropdown
    '
    Set rngTmp = Me.Cells(7, 4)
    If Len(Target.Value) > 1 Then
      sState = Target.Value
      rngTmp.Formula = ""
      With rngTmp.Validation
        .Delete
        .Add Type:=xlValidateList, AlertStyle:=xlValidAlertStop, Operator:= _
        xlBetween, Formula1:="=" & "Electorates" & UCase(sState)
        .IgnoreBlank = True
        .InCellDropdown = True
        .InputTitle = ""
        .ErrorTitle = ""
        .InputMessage = ""
        .ErrorMessage = ""
        .ShowInput = True
        .ShowError = True
      End With
    Else
      rngTmp.Validation.Delete
      rngTmp.Formula = ""
    End If
  End If

End Sub

Oh Excel Why Must You Vex Me So

Excel is fabulous. It’s wonderful. It’s without doubt the most useful software tool I’ve ever used since I started using computers. But oh my can it be annoying. Right now I am trying use the TRIM() function to remove the leading spaces from some text strings. And it doesn’t work. Why doesn’t it work? Well because the strings I am trying to trim seem to start with ASCII character 160 rather than the regular ASCII 32 space character. I confirmed this with the Excel formula CODE(LEFT(A1,1)) where cell A1 contained the vexatious string in question.

ASCII 160 is the breaking space character and for whatever reason Excel displays it as a space but doesn’t trim it with the TRIM() function. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid Excel. So to trim the Excel string I need to do this:

TRIM(SUBSTITUTE(A1,CHAR(160),""))

Did I mention Excel was stupid?

Sony 3D Glasses

Because I was too eager to get the new TV I talked about recently I didn’t take the time to check that I could appreciate it’s 3D’ness with the included 3D glasses. It’s a shame I didn’t check that because it turns out it didn’t include any 3D glasses. So if I want to watch 3D material I need to buy some. Of course Sony’s glasses are (nightmarishly) expensive and this lead to some resistance to the idea of purchasing them from She Who Must Be Obeyed. But in the fine tradition of über-geeks everywhere I ignored her and bought some anyway**.

So there’s two pairs of Sony TDD-BR750 3d glasses heading my way soon. And if you’re wondering, no I didn’t pay the price listed on the Sony site, not even close. The glasses look rather natty and they trumpet out the fact that they weigh less than 40 grams. I am more interested in how they fit over my glasses though. Time will tell. Pictures will follow when they arrive.

**(Who am I kidding, I didn’t ignore her. I got them as a toy and she smiled at me tolerantly like she always does when I am spending money on things that we don’t really need. She’s too good for me really 🙂 )

A New TV Has Landed

If anyone actually reads this blog they’ll know that I recently bought a new Panasonic HDD Recorder. Today it’s partner in crime took up residence here. It’s a 40″ Sony Bravia LED with the model number KDL40HX750. This makes it a 200Hz model with active 3d and lots of networking features. The choice in the end was made because the Panasonic LED I was looking at uses an LG panel which I didn’t like the sound of and the Sony comes with one of their new Google TV boxes. I don’t have the Google TV box yet because it’s claimed by redemption. This post isn’t a review of the TV because it’s only been here a few hours so I’ll just post up a few pictures and make some quick comments.

Firstly, assembling the TV is so easy a child could do it. I know this to be true because a child (my 9 year old son) assembled it with me helping out with any awkward lifting. Secondly, the setup process when you turn the TV on is quick and simple. I know that because he did that too. Thirdly, the built in networking features such as QuickFlix, ABC iView, YouTube and the Sony Entertainment Network look like they’ll waste a lot of my time. And finally for now, the ability to control the Sony from my IPad via the Sony Media Remote App is insanely cool. Being able to flick up URL’s, images, and videos from the tablet to the big screen is just amazing!

Enough for now, here’s some pictures.

The Box Shot - fit easily into a small hatch-back

The Box Shot – fit easily into a small hatch-back

The Box Contents - note the absence of 3d glasses (doh!)

The Box Contents – note the absence of 3d glasses (doh!)

TV Pedestal Assembled by 9 yr Old

TV Pedestal Assembled by 9 yr Old

Pedestal Mounting Points

Pedestal Mounting Points

Panel and Pedestal Assembly

Panel and Pedestal Assembly

The Input Panel - Enough HDMI for Everyone!

The Input Panel – Enough HDMI for Everyone!

The Finished Product - Yes that's "The Voice" (shame on me)

The Finished Product – Yes that’s “The Voice” (shame on me)

Once the Google TV box arrives we’ll have to think about getting a proper TV stand for it. Seems like a shame to have such nice hardware slumming it on a coffee table I was given as a hand-me-down nearly 20 years ago.

Look What Mark Did Too!

It may not come as a surprise to some but it turns out that I am not the only guy called Mark. It may also not come as a surprise that not only am I not the only guy called Mark, I am also not the only guy called Mark who does things. What *may* come as a surprise is that I am also not the only guy called Mark who does things who blogs about them in a rather wittily named blog. So I suggest from this point forward that you also read Look What Mark Did.

You should read it because he is called Mark, because he does things, and because he blogs about it.

Screw the Millennium Bug – What About the Leap Second Bug?

I wasn’t programming much in 1999 but I knew more than enough to understand what the so called Millennium Bug was all about and why it would be a huge problem. I was even lucky enough to get to fix the “bug” in a couple of DOS programs that were written in the mid-1990’s.

Because of the sheer hype and terror that surrounded the issue I was fairly certain that most companies and governments would get their excrement together and fix the problems before the critical date. So I did my best to ignore the hysteria and assumed all would be OK. However, I do remember taking money out of the bank and filling our bath with water just in case the much prophesied Bad Things actually happened on January 1 2000. Of course nothing particularly serious happened and it probably ended up being the most reported and hyped up non-event in my living memory.

It occurs to me that the Leap Second that was inserted into the worlds timing systems a couple of days back seemed to have a bigger effect than the Millennium Bug did. Here in Australia it caused problems with some airline check in systems and I’ve read that some websites had some issues too, including Reddit. This News.Com.Au story even suggests that the mighty Twitter experienced some problems because of it.

I’m not going to rag on programmers that allow these problems to occur because I am guilty of it myself. It’s been three years now since I started trying to find an elegant way to handle the day light savings transitions in Time Clock MTS. I’ve failed miserably to this point and it still causes problems for anyone who actually clocks in across the DST transition times.

What Other People Did

This isn’t about what I’ve done, but rather what others have been doing. Firstly, Andrew, a very good friend of mine has started a new blog called Careless Gamer. Andrew is the primary reason I still play computers games, build model tanks and planes, and play strange board games with stupendously complex rules. So, read his blog, it will be good.

Secondly, a very, very old friend of mine (he’s been a friend for a very long time rather than actually being old) has also started a blog. He’s become rather wordy in the years since I last saw him but has some interesting things to say about movies, comics, and life in general. Just be prepared for some mental mastication as you try to digest some of his sentences and don’t be scared to disagree with some of the things he says., Here’s the blog, rather nicely named Becoming Fictional.